I haven’t really ever written anything particularly Starbucks related in the past, probably because it might not be especially entertaining to read (however that’s a relative point, so I’ll not get into that at the moment). Though recently I have felt slightly compelled to mention a few interesting points about everyone’s favourite (or least favourite) coffee company.
Being an ex-(and maybe possibly future) employee, I have a different outlook and opinion on the company and its ethics. So do bear that in mind with anything I say, but then again it’s not like I’m saying anything remotely controversial—so don’t worry!
Primarily, this post concerns dry drinks… Not as in non-alcoholic, but as in more foam or less liquid depending on how you look at it. Basically it’s a simple way of customising your beverage so it’s how you like it. But then again it’s so much more. It can tell you a little bit about a person. For example, people who come in and order a wet latte are generally pretty stingy (or maybe just a little picky, but there’s better ways of doing that) and want the most value for money so to speak (or skin on their milk if there’s absolutely zip foam). People who order a dry latte (or a wet cappuccino in that case) probably think they are being all ‘hip’ with the wet/dry lingo, but don’t really know what the difference between a (Starbucks) latte or cappuccino is. Then again, they could be ultra picky, but the same picky rule from before applies (they could do better, or worse depending on your perspective).
What I used to order fairly often (this was when working by the way) was a quad Venti 1 pump almond extra dry cappuccino (try it, it’s quite nice). Essentially this is like an quad espresso macchiato with a venti cups worth of foam on top (and a little almond). A little too expensive seeing as most of it is air and a venti cappuccino is £2.60 (not including the 2 extra shots (15p each) and the syrup (35p)). Ordering this on the cheap could be done pretty easily as an espresso macchiato in a venti cup with XX foam + 2 shots + syrup. Paying by Starbucks card would also get you free shots and syrup, making the drink a much more manageable £1.35 I think… Anyway, back to my original point on dryness—the main reason I liked my drinks extra dry was that there was less liquid (quicker to drink) and in a busier Starbucks, they tend to make drinks over-wet in my opinion. They’re good skilled baristas, don’t get me wrong, but at high volume times, you might not get the absolute freshest (micro)foam in the world, so free-pouring (the action of not using a spoon to pour cappuccinos and (espresso) macchiatos) would not be possible, and so the foam and milk would not be mixed (creating a light airy silky milk) but in almost 2 distinct layers (using a spoon to achieve this). Not nice. So basically my theory in ordering an extra dry drink was to force the barista to make new (very dry) milk and then free pour it, creating a good (reasonably dry) cappuccino. This would generally work. As a result: Moses 1, Starbucks 0.
But then try ordering this at another store. This is where the confusion comes in… Fair enough they know how to make your drink, that’s their job, but they just do it differently. Going from the 2nd busiest (or busiest) store in the UK, to a smaller one (without even a queue!) has a surprising effect on the dryness of drinks. Whereas before in the busy store where jugs of milk used to be put on in ‘batches of anticipation’ which worked out really well when it got crazy busy, now milk is put on as needed and the barista’s outlook on the extra dry cappuccino has changed. They would happily make fresh and free pour any cappuccino (which would be excellent), but given a dry cappuccino (or even an extra dry cappuccino (shock horror!)) then it would be made exceedingly dry and then not even free poured, but basically the foam spooned on top (NB this was my experience for a dry cappuccino, I don’t want to know what an extra dry one is like…). Fair enough some people may like it like this, but then again you’re getting to the point where you are buying a cup of foam. Not always the best thing. Moses 1, Starbucks 1.
But basically the point of this whole mini discussion is to highlight the differences in a barista’s interpretation of a dry drink. Depending on the store, it will (strangely enough) be made differently. The main point to take home from this is: ‘Don’t buy a cup of foam’.